Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Garden of Earthly Delights (Minetta Lane Theatre)

By Ben Charles

modern dance • body suits leaving little to the imagination • aerial ballet • mature themes • show lasts one hour

BOTTOM LINE: Probably not the show that converts you into a modern dance fan, but if you think this trailer is appealing: http://gardenofearthlydelightsnyc.com/video/ged_trailer.mov, it could just be your thing.

The Garden of Earthly Delights is a show that is outside of my usual viewing habits. I haven’t seen a modern dance show since college and I was curious to see what an off-Broadway production would be like here in New York City, the epicenter of American dance.

The dancers were impressive. I do recommend that you make every effort to seek out a professional modern dance show at some point in your life. The physical grace and power that I witnessed was absolutely gorgeous. Seeing human beings move in these astonishing ways rivals any special effect that you may be numb to seeing at the cinema or on television.

As for this production, the overall story and sequence of what was presented didn’t connect with me. I was able to enjoy certain moments, but as a full production I had a hard time getting on board. For me, it was a bit out there at times. One scene in particular really lost me as an audience member because it seemed intentionally low-brow; I didn’t feel that it was redeeming to be seeing what I was seeing on stage and it felt self-indulgent. Of course, a lot of this has more to do with the chosen subject matter rather than the performers themselves. (Editor's note: many critics are in love with this show, so for more opinions check out reviews from The New York Times, Variety and Time Out New York.)

The show is based on a Renaissance painting by Hieronymus Bosch that was painted between 1503-1504. The painting, which can be found here http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Garden_of_Earthly_Delights, or in the lobby of the Minetta Lane Theater, is extremely detailed in its depiction of biblical and heretical scenes. Without giving away all the details, what this translates into on stage is a series of scenes involving body suit nudity, sexuality, innuendos, modern dance fighting and scenes that show the ugly side of our humanity.

What is truly a breakthrough, or at least what was a breakthrough when this production was originally staged in the 1980’s, was the use of harnesses and acrobatics to create moments of aerial ballet. Those were the moments of sheer awe for myself as an audience member. But with today’s productions of Cirque de Soliel and Fuerzabruta, seeing a dancer fly at great heights is no longer a new experience. Those shows also may be a bit more accessible to a general audience than The Garden of Earthly Delights, as well.

Take the time to ask yourself if the painting moves you and if you think the artsy trailer is appealing. If so, then this is definitely a show you’d enjoy. If not, this modern dance experience may not fully engage you for your hour at the theater.

(The Garden of Earthly Delights plays an extended run through March 1 at the Minetta Lane Theatre, 18 Minetta Lane. Show times are Tuesday at 7pm, Wednesday – Friday at 8pm, Saturday at 3pm and 8pm, and Sunday at 3pm and 7pm. Tickets are $40 - $69.50 and may be purchased at ticketmaster.com or by calling 212.307.4100. Same day rush seats are available for $30. For more show info visit gardenofearthlydelightsnyc.com.)

1 comment:

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